According to the largest study published so far on the psychological harm Covid has caused to survivors over a long period of time, two-thirds of people who overcome Covid-19 will suffer a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis six months later.
The authors said that the study, published by The Lancet Psychiatry on Wednesday, proved that patients with Covid-19 are significantly more likely to develop brain diseases than patients with other respiratory infections.
Studying the health records of more than 230,000 patients who recovered from Covid-19, they found that 34% of patients were diagnosed with a neurological or mental illness within six months. The most common diseases are anxiety (17% of patients) and mood disorders (14%). For 13% of patients, the disease is their first diagnosis of a mental health problem.
In general, the incidence of neurological diseases such as cerebral hemorrhage (0.6%), stroke (2.1%) and dementia (0.7%) is lower than that of psychiatric diseases, but patients with severe Covid-19 develop higher risk of brain diseases.
The authors also examined data from 100,000 patients diagnosed with influenza and 236,000 patients diagnosed with any respiratory infections. They found that after Covid-19, the overall risk of neurological and mental health diagnosis is 44% higher than influenza and 16% higher than respiratory infections.
Paul Harrison, the lead authors of the University of Oxford, said that although the individual neurological and psychiatric risks of Covid-19 are small, the overall impact of the global population may prove to be “substantial.”
According to analysis, patients hospitalized with severe Covid-19 are very likely to suffer from long-term illness. For example, among patients requiring intensive care, 46% were diagnosed with a neurological or mental illness within six months of recovery.
The data showed that 2.7% of people in need of intensive care had subsequent cerebral hemorrhage, compared with 0.3% of people who were not hospitalized. Nearly 7% of patients requiring ICU care have a stroke, compared with 1.3% of patients without ICU.